If your child was bitten by a snake, would you know what to do?
Turns out, too many of us actually do not. But with 3000 reported snake bites each year in Australia – and as temperature rise and snakes come out to play – it’s important to brush up on the latest guidelines on snake bite first aid and prevention.
*Cue collective shuddering from parents everywhere*
Sure, some snakes are harmless, but many are not. Especially the smaller ones. And the problem is, it’s often hard to identify the non-venomous snakes from the poisonous ones, especially if you’re a child.
So what do you do if you happen to spot one of these slitherers in your home or garden? And what happens if your child does get bitten?
Associate Professor Bill Nimorakiotakis, from Epworth Richmond Emergency Department, reveals that snakes and children often have the same ‘play areas’. This is why it is so important to know what to do if your child does come into contact with one.
Play snake smart
“Our kids are active when the snakes are active, especially during the summer and late afternoon,” Bill tells Mum Central. “When the sun start to set, that’s when the snakes often come out. And that’s also when kids tend to come out to play too.”
Most snake attacks occur near houses, not in the bush and half of all bites happen while people are out walking or gardening. Snakes like to hide away in sheds, under tin cans and even near water, which is where kids also like to explore.
What to do if your child is bitten
- Do not panic – Snake venom travels through the body during muscle contractions. Help your child stay calm to keep the muscles from contracting and the venom from spreading.
- Don’t let your child walk – Try not to move him at all. And, if you must, carry him instead. Again, any movement can push the venom through the body quicker.
- Bandage the area – An elastic compression bandage is best, wrapped as tightly as you would wrap a sprained ankle.
- Head to the ER – It’s too risky to assume that the snake isn’t venomous. Go in, no matter what. The emergency department will be able to evaluate your child and give the appropriate anti-venom.
- Do not try DIY – Don’t try to wash the area of the bite, suck out the venom or cute the bite.
- Do not attempt to identify the snake – No need to try and take a photo of the offender or try and catch a glimpse of it. Let it go.
- Download the free app – When your child is bitten by a snake, it’s not always possible to remember these rules, which is why it’s smart to keep the info on your phone. Australian Bites & Stings is a free app with all you need to know on snake bite first aid, plus guidelines on bites and stings from other venomous creatures.
“Of course, prevention is better than any form of cure,” Bill reminds us. “Be smart and be mindful of when they are most active. If you do go walking with the kids, don’t let them walk in thongs.
“Use your parental instincts, and, if you think your child has been bitten, there’s no harm in taking them to the doctor just in case.”
Know the signs of a snake bite
The thing about little kids and snake bites is that sometimes we don’t even know it’s happened. Sure, we try to watch our kids 24/7, but sometimes it’s not possible. Your little one may be bitten without realising it. And you may only notice something is wrong when your child starts going downhill… fast.
You can look for the two fang bite mark on your child, but, as Bill explains, snake fangs can break off and it may only have one fang. Plus, often the marks are quite small and hard to find.
Symptoms of a snake bite include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Droopy eyelids
- Inability for blood to clot
Walk away and you’ll be okay
Yes, it can be terrifying coming into contact with a snake. And even more awful witnessing a snake snap at your child. But this is incredibly uncommon. Snakes usually bite to warn, not to harm. It just so happens that their venom can kill us.
“This doesn’t mean that kids should not play outside,” Bill says. “The chance of a child being bitten by a snake is really low in terms of population.”
Even so, it’s always important to be equipped with the right information, just in case. For more summer safety guidelines, have a look at our car safety post, especially if you have little ones still in car seats.